Gov­ern­ment should do ev­ery­thing nec­es­sary to se­cure her free­dom


Last Mon­day, May 14, Miss Leah Sharibu marked her 15th birth­day in cap­tiv­ity. There were no fam­ily mem­bers and friends to show her love and to wish her happy birth­day. Miss Sharibu was the only school­girl among the 110 stu­dents ab­ducted from Gov­ern­ment Girls Science and Tech­ni­cal Col­lege, Dapchi, Yobe State, on Feb­ru­ary 19 that is still with the bru­tal terror group, Boko Haram. The rest, fol­low­ing what the fed­eral gov­ern­ment de­scribed as a se­ries of “be­hind- the- scene- dis­cus­sion” were re­turned March 21 to Dapchi, in­ci­den­tally by the kid­nap­pers them­selves. Sharibu is be­ing held back be­cause of her faith: she is a Chris­tian. But Pres­i­dent Muham­madu Buhari had vowed then to en­sure that “the lone girl was not aban­doned.”

It is un­for­tu­nate that al­most two months af­ter the pres­i­dent com­mit­ted him­self, Sharibu is still be­ing held back by her cap­tors. Quite nat­u­rally, Leah’s con­tin­ued cap­tiv­ity has elicited great con­cern from Nige­ri­ans who are de­mand­ing for her im­me­di­ate re­lease. The par­ents of the teenager are un­der­stand­ably very wor­ried. “Pres­i­dent Buhari seemed to have for­got­ten about Leah,” said Re­becca Sharibu, Leah’s mother last week. “He promised us that Leah would be re­leased but we won­der why it is tak­ing such a long time to fa­cil­i­tate her re­lease as was the case with the other 105 girls.”

The Bring­Back­Our­Girls coali­tion at its usual sit-out last Mon­day also ex­pressed ut­ter dis­ap­point­ment over the con­tin­ued de­ten­tion of the school­girl. “Our move­ment is ex­tremely sad­dened and dis­traught on this 83rd of her cap­tiv­ity, and the fact that the young teenager has had to mark her birth­day in cap­tiv­ity with ter­ror­ists.” Be­sides, the group was ex­as­per­ated that the par­ents of the young girl were aban­doned by the gov­ern­ment, just as the fed­eral gov­ern­ment had also not reached out to the fam­i­lies of the five school­girls that were un­ac­counted for.

In­deed, the par­ents of the Dapchi re­leased school­girls were not only out­raged by the poor han­dling of Leah’s case, but that the gov­ern­ment did not deem it ex­pe­di­ent to con­dole with them over the death of five of their chil­dren, nor pro­vided any form of psy­cho­log­i­cal sup­port to the girls who sur­vived the one month trauma in the hands of the bru­tal in­sur­gents.

How­ever, per­haps more trou­bling is the mis­trust and sec­tar­ian bent and in­ter­pre­ta­tion be­ing sown among the pop­u­lace as a re­sult of the con­tin­ued de­ten­tion of Miss Sharibu. The Chris­tian As­so­ci­a­tion of Nige­ria (CAN), the na­tional umbrella for all Christians, has tasked the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to live up to ex­pec­ta­tions by work­ing for the im­me­di­ate re­lease of Leah. The Catholic Sec­re­tariat of Nige­ria was more point blank: it said that Sharibu’s de­ten­tion was a demon­stra­tion of in­creased hos­til­i­ties and high level per­se­cu­tion against the Chris­tian re­li­gion in Nige­ria and the world at large.

Last week, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment said it was do­ing its best to see to the re­lease of Leah and in­deed all oth­ers held in cap­tiv­ity by mem­bers of the fa­nat­i­cal sect. “Ne­go­ti­a­tions with in­sur­gents are quite tor­tu­ous and com­pli­cated at times but I can as­sure you we are not leav­ing her to her fate and those who should are daily busy work­ing on her re­lease,” said Lai Mo­hammed, Min­is­ter of In­for­ma­tion and Cul­ture.

Noth­ing less is ex­pected. As this news­pa­per has ar­gued re­peat­edly on this page, we can­not af­ford to give up on Leah or in­deed the 112 Chi­bok­girls that are still pin­ing away in cap­tiv­ity. They and many oth­ers held be­hind the lines rep­re­sent a blur on our col­lec­tive hu­man­ity. There­fore, the au­thor­i­ties must de­ploy all the nec­es­sary re­sources to get Leah and oth­ers out of the for­est and into free­dom. Nige­ri­ans des­per­ately need the as­sur­ance that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has the ca­pac­ity to de­fend our ter­ri­tory and that the life of ev­ery sin­gle cit­i­zen mat­ters. Noth­ing would sym­bol­ise that more than the re­turn of Leah and of course, the Chi­bok school­girls.


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